Entrepreneurs harness mobile surfing audience – Sherpa SurfGuide

Apps make money. Big time. Snapchat recently turned down Facebook’s offer to drop 3 billion USD in cash on them, and then allegedly also denied Google’s offer of 4 billion. Snapchat is so popular these days because they have something that everyone else wants: a massive audience of engaged users.

Engaged audiences are like cheques that won’t bounce in this day and age. It’s what funds your TV channel, your local paper, and Facebook. Coming out of the the dot-com boom, many people, formerly known as “geeks” and “nerds” soon became known as “cool” and “millionaires” because they figured out a way to get a massive audience engaged in a space where offering them ads was unprecedentedly easy.

Then the beginning of the end for PC’s approached, and everyone started buying smartphones. The audience on a smartphone is bigger, better, and more personal. The smartphone is on the person at all times. It’s like your audience is at a concert, except they never leave. They’re always there. Because of that, apps are fuelling the latest tech boom.

Reuben Cairns-Morrison and Gene Hogan know this. They’re young; they’re connected. They’ve recognised the trend, and are catering to it with their app, Sherpa Surfguide, which is an iPhone application that tells users where the best surf is anywhere in New Zealand.

“The app is basically a digital surf guide plus a surf forecasting service which are two services that have yet to be combined. This is a huge advantage to surfers who are on the road, as they can get  an information update hourly about the conditions and the surf breaks on their phones.”

The idea was spawned when the two were on a surfing trip together. “When you’re surfing, you’re always trying to compile all the information you can find about the optimum conditions for each spot and match that up with what the weather is doing on that day. There are a few books and websites that surfers generally use, but it can be quite hard to remember everything when you’re on the road and away from your computer,” said Rueben, “I’ve been thinking about the concept for a few years, but in the form of a website. When mobile applications became popular, I realised the idea was much better suited to the mobile format, so in January when Gene and I were on a surf trip we started building on the initial concept.”

“We see the app as being the one-stop surf app, with accurate forecasting and live weather information for local surfers, and detailed information about each spot for travelling surfers. If it goes well here, we will take the app offshore.”

Although they are the first to come up with an app that provides a digital surf report on a mobile platform, Gene and Rueben aren’t the only creative geniuses to capitalise on New Zealand’s reputation for having some of the best beaches in the world. Box of Light, one of the startups we have featured from the South Island, provides subscribers with a “weekly dose of stoke from the surf lifestyle and culture of Dunedin’s beaches and the mountains of Queenstown.” Gorgeous photographs and inspiring videos make up the report, which is sent out to a targeted audience of over 5,000 people.

This team that consists of two parts jovial mastermind are so apt at developing this field because they have literally been raised in an environment steeped in digital. Unlike the previous generation who had already grown accustomed to an analog world when digital took over, smartphones, ultra-fast broadband and computers are what they have grown up using. “I think young people have a sort of understanding about this kind of technology that allows them to see opportunities where others can’t, since a lot of us are constantly using our phone, browsing the internet and so on. That understanding of the format we are working with has been a huge advantage, and we have saved a lot of time and money as a result of this. We are constantly thinking of ways that we can implement existing ideas in a modern way that is specifically designed for modern formats such as the mobile phone.”

The duo behind Sherpa Surfguide will be working on improving the content of the app by travelling the country and taking detailed notes and photos throughout the summer, as well as promoting the app in surf stores. They say that when they are completely happy with the New Zealand version, they will begin taking the idea elsewhere.


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